E15: Code of practice for Programme, Course and Module modification

  1. The programme modification process is the quality assurance mechanism by which any proposed changes outside of the periodic review cycle may be considered and, if approved, implemented.
  2. The periodic review cycle is an annual process where we look at courses and modules to see what changes are necessary based on problems experienced by students and tutors over the previous cycle.
  3. The Academic Development Committee will ensure that there is a record of any programme and module modifications, and that previous specifications are archived. Records of changes will be kept for at least six years after the student enrolled on those modules leaves.
  4. This Code of practice is intended to provide detailed information and guidance about the programme and module modification process, as well as the responsibilities of all participants.

Process aims

  1. ORMS is committed to ensuring the continuous improvement of its programmes to ensure the best possible student experience. Part of this commitment is to recognise where change is needed and to make sure there are no unnecessary barriers, so as to enable our programmes to stay relevant, current, viable and competitive. The modification process allows for this.
  2. The following factors may contribute to the need to modify a programme in between periodic review cycles:
    1. research, professional, subject and industry practice changing;
    2. learning and teaching developments (including the use or development of learning technology);
    3. Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirements;
    4. Changes to ORMS’ strategic aims, objectives and mission.

The process

  1. There is an expectation that a modification is identified through one or more of the factors below, which then flags the need for a change:
    1. data on student progression and achievement;
    2. Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirements;
    3. external examiners’ reports;
    4. annual programme review reports;
    5. student surveys;
    6. discussion at Boards of Examiners;
    7. feedback from students, employers, alumni, staff and tutors.
  2. External examiners should be kept informed regarding any modifications and consulted where necessary.
  3. The modification process should not be used for individual students who require reasonable adjustments due to extenuating circumstances. Course level processes are in place to manage these instances.
  4. At any stage during the process a decision may be made that the modification is too substantial or the changes too numerous to be managed through the modification process. If this is the case, a periodic review or validation of a new programme will take place. In either instance the Education Director will be informed by the Head of Quality and advised on what process will need to be initiated in order to implement the proposed change.
  5. Where a need for modification is identified, Course or Module Leader or other nominated person is required to complete the form in Appendix 1 and append the necessary documentation to support the modification. For example, if the modification was to introduce new programme content through the development of a new module, the new module descriptor would need to be provided along with the amended programme specification.
  6. It is the expectation of ORMS that any changes are discussed with students regarding the proposed modification before it is implemented. The method used to collect this information should be documented on the modification form. All modifications should be considered and approved at Academic Development Committee meetings, before being presented to the Board of Examiners. As well as this, students can also be consulted or kept informed through other means such as student staff liaison committee (SSLC) meetings.
  7. Modifications such as the introduction of a new programme structure and / or title would only normally come into effect for new cohorts. Other modifications such as the introduction of new optional modules would take effect from the start of the next academic year and could be available to current as well as new students. Clear evidence for the modification and how it will be implemented must be detailed on the modification form to ensure that academic standards are maintained during any transition period.
  8. All programme modifications are to be reported on through the Annual Course Monitoring process to ensure that ORMS can be assured of the positive effect of the change on the quality assurance and learning experience of the programme.
  9. The modification form within Appendix 1 should be completed for all major and minor modifications. If the form is not used for a minor modification it is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the Board of Examiners is provided with all relevant information that will allow them to make an informed decision.
  10. Although minor modifications receive final approval through Board of Examiners meetings, the Head of Quality will still need to be notified of the approval. The Head of Quality will request from the member of staff responsible for administering the Board of Examiners which will detail:
    1. the module code, module title, a brief description of the modification, rationale for the change;
    2. date of approval, whether approval was via Chair’s action or via a Board of Examiners meeting and a note detailing the date in which all relevant records have been updated. (See Appendix 2 for a blank template with the relevant headings inserted).
  11. All minor modification approvals should be clearly minuted within the Board of Examiners minutes and the papers should be made available to the Head of Administration for filing under the Course Catalogue.
  12. Major modifications must be sent to the Quality Manager following consideration at the Board of Studies. The Quality Manager will keep the proposer up to date with the progress of the modification. On occasion further work may be needed before final approval can be given. In these instances, the Quality Manager will request amendments or a more information from the proposer.

Timescales

  1. The timescales for modifications can vary greatly depending on the extent of the change. It should be possible to complete the modification process within one to two months, however this cannot be guaranteed.
  2. Although ORMS recognises that there should be flexibility with this process, it is also important to ensure that there is no disruption to the quality of the learning experience. All modifications must be submitted no later than the end of November in the year prior to the introduction of the proposed modification. This is to ensure that, if approved, there is enough time for consideration and implementation before the students return/begin their studies.
  3. It would be atypical for a change to be introduced during the academic year; however it is recognised that this might be necessary in exceptional cases, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In these instances a clear rationale must be provided as to why the introduction cannot wait and how it will improve the overall student experience.

Major / minor amendments

  1. Potential examples of major amendments are as follows:
    1. programme learning outcomes
    2. overall assessment strategy
    3. overall pattern of study
    4. programme delivery
    5. programme content
    6. programme structure
    7. new core / compulsory modules
    8. award titles
    9. mode of study
    10. new award pathway
    11. any changes dictated by PSRBs, eg pass marks that are above the University norm for the level of study
  2. Potential examples of minor amendments are as follows:
    1. module content and / or module aims that does not impact on overall programme learning outcomes
    2. module learning outcomes that do not impact on overall programme learning outcome
    3. the module assessment pattern that does impact on the programme learning outcomes
    4. learning and teaching methods that do not impact on the programme learning outcomes
    5. new optional module
    6. module reading lists
    7. module title
    8. module co-ordinator or lead
    9. module contact hours
  3. Both of the above lists are not exhaustive. Each modification will be considered on a case by case basis.

Approval

  1. Once completed the documentation will need to be approved. The level of the change and the risk involved will determine whether the proposed modification will be approved at Faculty level (minor modifications) or Institutional level (major modifications). Major modifications must be approved by the Faculty before it is submitted for Institutional level approval.
  2. Forms E15a and E15b detail the approval process for the varying levels of modification. If the modification is minor and so can be approved at Faculty level then the documentation will need to be signed by the Course Leader, approved by the Education Director and presented to the relevant Board of Examiners for consideration. If approved, the Chair of the Board of Examiners will need to sign the form.
  3. If the modification is major such as a programme title name change, the documentation will need to be forwarded to the Head of Quality once all Faculty-level approvals have been received, where it will be submitted to the Quality and Standards Committee (QASC) for consideration and approval, if appropriate.
  4. If QASC considers that the change is too substantial for their approval it may be forwarded to ORMS’ Directors for consideration and final approval. This process will be managed by the Education Director.
  5. To ensure that there are no unnecessary barriers to introduce changes in a timely manner, modifications can be considered and approved by Chair’s action. This could be at Faculty or institutional level, but no more than one Chair’s action will be actioned per modification.

Roles and responsibilities

  1. Course Leaders (or nominated alternate) are responsible for:
    1. identifying the modification(s) required
    2. discussing the modification(s) with students
    3. completing the form
    4. seeking approval
    5. submitting the form to the Head of Quality once it has received Faculty approval
    6. implementing the change(s) whilst maintaining the academic standards of the programme and the quality of the learning experience
    7. reporting on and monitoring the effectiveness of the modification(s) through the annual course monitoring process and any subsequent periodic programme reviews
    8. carrying out the process in a timely manner
    9. keeping all relevant parties informed throughout the process
    10. ensuring that any programme documentation that is amended and approved through the modification process is updated and republished, i.e. Module Catalogue and Programme Handbook
  2. Faculties are responsible for:
    1. ensuring that all necessary documentation has been provided and that due process has been followed
    2. ensuring the information provided is sufficient to make an informed decision
    3. ensuring the proposed modification is appropriate and timely
    4. ensuring the proposed implementation process is sufficient and that it can be supported by the Faculty, ie if funds are required for further resources
    5. maintaining the learning experience and academic standards of the programme
    6. ensuring that students have been informed
    7. approving minor modifications or recommending further improvement
    8. ensuring the change(s) is/are monitored through the relevant quality assurance mechanisms, ie annual programme review and periodic programme review
  3. The Quality Manager is responsible for:
    1. ensuring that all modifications are reported to relevant committees in a timely manner (if applicable)
    2. maintaining clear communication of the process and the progression of any modifications through the process between the Faculty, and ORMS’ committees
    3. ensuring all outcomes are clearly communicated to all relevant parties including: the Faculty and the Student Services, Head of Administration, Marketing and Admissions staff; identifying where action is required
    4. ensuring that the documentation is filed appropriately and easily accessible
    5. ensuring that the documentation is fit for purpose, that enough information has been provided and that all documentation required to support the modification has been submitted
    6. ensuring that any programme documentation that is to be amended and approved through the programme modification process is updated and republished, i.e. programme specifications
  4. The Quality and Standards Committee is responsible for:
    1. assessing the risk involved in the major modifications
    2. assuring the implementation process proposed is appropriate
    3. ensuring that students have been informed
    4. deciding whether the modification is appropriate and timely
    5. ensuring that Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Bodies are notified of any changes
    6. approving the modification (if appropriate) or escalating the modification to the Academic Development Committee where appropriate